Divorce Act Changes 2021

Canada’s Divorce Act changed March 2021.

Whether you’re just thinking of separating or divorcing or have already applied, here’s what you need to know about:

  • simple divorce in Ontario
  • making uncontested divorce (Ontario) applications
  • agreeing to joint divorce
  • new language around custody or access
  • changing court orders already made.

Axess Law family lawyers in Toronto area and Ottawa file divorce applications in Ontario family court. We can guide you through changes that affect how you apply for and get an uncontested divorce or joint divorce (Ontario).

Ask us if you have questions about new Divorce Act clauses.


Who Divorce Act Changes Apply To

The 2021 changes apply to you if you:

live in Ontario

separate or divorce

ask family court for financial support

want time with your children

require a decision on where your children live.

Revising or applying for new court orders? Language and legislation you’ve become accustomed to may all have changed.   

Supporting an ex-spouse — how long are you liable?


How the Divorce Act 2021 Works

Here’s how the Divorce Act 2021 changes affect you.

  • Existing divorce court orders or agreements made before March 1, 2021 stay in place.
  • The changes apply to new court orders or agreements made after March 1, 2021.
  • Change your court order or divorce agreement after March 1, 2021 and the new divorce law applies.
  • You or your children must have a “change in circumstances” to revise a divorce order or agreement after the new law takes effect.

For example, if you are contemplating moving to another province with or without your children, new notice requirements apply. You now have to notify your ex-spouse and request permission for children to relocate, even if you just move across the Greater Toronto Area.


What Matters About Canada’s Divorce Act

Canada’s Divorce Act:

1.    Promotes children’s best interests.

2.    Deals with family violence.

3.    Reduces child poverty.

4.    Makes family law easier to use.

Divorce has no “one-size-fits-all solution”. Your family circumstances are unique and the parenting decisions you and your ex-spouse make will be customized to your situation.

What to do about “deadbeat dads (or moms) who skip out on child support.


In Your Children’s Best Interests

Your children’s feelings are important to you.

The revised Divorce Act requires family judges to think about your children’s physical, emotional and psychological safety and well-being. New or revised applications for parenting time (which replaces access) and decision-making responsibility (the new term for custody) are based on the best interests of the child.

  • Who usually cares for your children?
  • Is your ex-spouse able to care for your children?
  • Will your ex-spouse support your children’s relationship with you?
  • Do you co-operate and communicate on parental issues?
  • Do you or your ex-spouse involve the children in disputes?
  • Is violence a problem?

Protecting your children if your ex drinks.

Your children’s relationships with both of you, their grandparents and other important people in their lives, who can ask for contact time, matter. How much time your children spend with each of you depends on their best interests.

Judges will consider your wishes for their cultural, spiritual or Indigenous heritage and upbringing. If they are old enough, the judge may ask your children about their views and preferences.


New Terms for Access and Custody

Custody orders and access arrangements are passé.

Deciding child responsibility in uncontested divorces.

Day-to-day decision-making responsibilities, like organizing bedtimes and meals, are included in parenting orders. They include your choices for your children’s health, religious or spiritual well-being, education, language instruction and more. 

Decision-making responsibility can be:


Decisions are made jointly, but your children live with one of you most of the time


You make decisions together and children live with each of you part of the time


Only one of you makes decisions and cares for children


If some children prefer to live with one of you and you share decision making.

Axess Law’s trusted legal partners give you advice on applying for decision-making responsibility. They represent you when you apply to family court to get child support or change spousal support orders.


Moving Your Children Around

Moves you plan to take a new job or because to change residences where you live with your children some or all of the time require that you advise your ex-spouse. Family court judges have new guidelines to decide how your child’s best interests are affected by proposed moves.

How much notice you give is affected by safety issues. Sixty days advance notice is the new standard. If family violence is an issue, your ex-spouse may be able to move with less or no notice at all.

Apply to Ontario family court for parenting time.


Family Violence Defined

Family violence is redefined as violent, threatening or coercive and controlling conduct.

Violence Includes

Causing you or family members, including your children, to be fearful or exposing your children to direct or indirect threats is violent. Threatening to hurt you, your children or other people in your lives physically, sexually or financially, harming pets, damaging property or harassing or forcibly confining you all affect your well-being. Deliberately failing to provide necessaries of life like food or shelter is abusive.

What Judges Consider

Before making parenting arrangements, contact time or child support orders, family court judges:  

  • ask if violence is occurring
  • review how serious the threats or violence are
  • consider how it affects your children
  • and check for conflicts with other court actions.

Criminal charges or restraining orders are examples.

What to do if you have a criminal record.


What to Do About Violence

When family violence is affecting your or your children’s well-being, you may be given solo decision-making responsibility or parenting time may be supervised. Axess Law can refer you to our trusted legal partners for advice on protecting your children from family violence.


Getting Child Support in Ontario

Ottawa wants to reduce child poverty by ensuring child support orders are upheld. 

After March 1, 2021, Canada Revenue Agency can release tax information to Ontario judges or the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to calculate child support. Getting child support will cost less and deciding or recalculating child support amounts will be faster. Recalculations can be made at any time. If your ex-spouse moves, Ontario courts will vary support orders without going through courts in their new location.


Mediating Family Disputes  

The 2021 Divorce Act encourages you to use divorce mediation, negotiation or arbitration to work out disputes involving your children, including relocations to another province or city. Family court judges expect you to come up with your own solutions as parents, unless that would be unsafe because of threats, abuse or violence. If you can’t reach agreement, a judge may make decisions for you, with or without your agreement.

Child access during COVID (Ontario parents).

Fixing Long Distance Disputes  

Axess Law’s trusted legal partners can show you ways to resolve disputes without suing. Canada plans to adopt the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and 2007 Hague Child Support Convention, making it easier if your spouse leaves Canada.

See how Axess Law’s public notarization (Ontario) services work.

Legal Advice on Divorce Act Changes for Ontario Parents

Call Axess Law if you plan to separate or divorce or need referrals for complex family issues. Axess Law virtual family lawyers (Ontario) are available by secure remote video conference 7 days a week, day or evening. 
Use our easy online booking form to make appointments that fit your schedule. Book in person appointments at any of our Axess Law locations by dialing toll-free to 1-877-402-4277 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118.